Title: Fan Mail
Author: P D Martin
Publisher: Pan Australia 
Length: 497 pages
In the third thriller to feature FBI profiler Sophie Anderson we’re taken to Los Angeles where best-selling crime writer Loretta Black is killed in a manner reflecting her newest book. Sophie, having just moved from the FBI’s Behavioural Science Unit to the LA field office, teams up with LA Police Detective Dave Sorrell to track down the killer. Realising that Black has received some rather nasty fan mail they concentrate on that angle quite early on. At the same time as this is playing out one of Sophie’s earlier cases is proceeding to its court phase in another state and there are some dramatic developments that take her attention from the present case at times.
This is probably one of the most realistic books I’ve read in terms of the way in which this kind of investigation might unfold. Unlike one of those TV crime shows, where each fingerprint or speck of dust leads speedily and miraculously to one of only two people on the planet who could possibly have ‘done it’, there are many dead ends, false leads and old fashioned follow-up here. It’s a really fine example of a modern procedural investigation and shows just how much painstaking work from dozens of experts is required for success. I will admit though that people who’ve read a lot of crime fiction might find the explanations of all the evidence collection theories and techniques a little repetitive (there can’t be too many fans of this genre that don’t know what Locard’s principle is for example) but it must be tough for an author to know how much prior knowledge of specialist subjects to include. The bonus side effect of focusing on the myriad of investigative approaches is that it allows the inclusion of lots of credible red herrings and plot twists in the story so you never quite know how it’s going to end.
Martin also does a solid job with her characters. Sophie has some psychic ability (normally a turn off for me) but it doesn’t take over her character and it’s quite fascinating to see how she is learning to accept and use her unique talent. Aside from that she and Dave Sorrell develop a decent working relationship over the course of this story and, again, it has a very realistic feel to its growth as the two feel each other out. The minor characters, including early suspects and the various crime lab experts are also nicely depicted.
My slight criticism of this book is the continuing thread that began in The Murderer’s Club. Apart from relying quite heavily on information from that book for at least one thread of this one, if you haven’t read The Murderer’s Club before Fan Mail you won’t be able to go back and read it because lots of the plot twists and information about the culprits are given away here. And the hint at the end of this book that we’ll hear from a key person behind The Murderer’s Club in future made my heart a little heavy. I think the idea of criminal mastermind being obsessed with a single investigator has been done to death (It’s one of the main things that prompted me to give up both Patricia Cornwell’s Kay Scarpetta series and James Patterson’s Alex Cross novels) and I’d be annoyed if this series takes that kind of turn. However I’ll cross my fingers and will definitely read the next one in this series some time soon (it’s already sitting in Mt TBR).
My rating 3.5/5
The other books in this series are, in order, Body Count, The Murderer’s Club and Killing Hands which is book 4 in the series and was released this year.